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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2007, 17:00 GMT
Life for photographer's murderer
Lee Phipps
Lee Phipps was in Cleadon Hills to photograph a recent snowfall
A 21-year-old man has been jailed for life for murdering an amateur photographer in a bungled mugging.

The body of Lee Phipps, 31, was discovered on a path close to his home in South Shields on 2 March 2006. He had been stabbed through the heart.

Scott Trevor Nichols, of Borough Road, South Shields, admitted murder at a hearing in October.

On Tuesday, the judge at Newcastle Crown Court recommended he serve a minimum of 22 years.

For the offence of murder there is only one sentence I can pass by law, that is of life imprisonment
Judge David Hodson, The Recorder of Newcastle

Nichols confessed to the crime after Northumbria Police sifted through thousands of hours of CCTV footage and conducted extensive forensic examinations.

During the investigation, police also found a 10 second video clip on Nichols' mobile phone, recorded only days after the attack.

In it, Nichols leers into the camera and calls himself a murderer.

Mr Phipps had been on his way to take photographs of a recent snowfall at Cleadon Hills when he was attacked.

Nichols rammed him with a bicycle as he walked along a secluded path, hoping to knock him off his guard and steal his digital camera.

Nichols' tracksuit bottoms
A spot of Mr Phipps' blood was found on Nichols' tracksuit bottoms

But the victim fought back and was stabbed several times, including once in the heart. A spot of blood was later found on Nichols' clothes.

It was the most serious in a long line of offences committed by Nichols, who has 37 previous convictions, including robbery, burglary, violence and carrying a knife.

He pleaded guilty on the basis that he only used the knife to escape as Mr Phipps tried to apprehend him. He claimed it was not used during the robbery.

Racial incidents

Judge David Hodson, The Recorder of Newcastle, ruled that Nichols did not intend to kill Mr Phipps and noted abuse he had suffered as a child.

He said: "The dreadful catalogue of physical and emotional abuse you have been subjected to as a child has undoubtedly contributed to the anti-social behaviour disorder you suffer.

"For the offence of murder there is only one sentence I can pass by law, that is of life imprisonment."

Scott Nichols
Nichols had 37 previous convictions including robbery

Mr Phipps had lived with his mother, Barbara Yusuf-Porter, who is of Somali origin, for most of his life. Both had previously complained to police of racial harassment.

Police initially focused on these complaints and a racial motive for the killing was considered.

However, no evidence was discovered to suggest the murder had been anything other than a mugging gone wrong.

Ms Yusuf-Porter also complained about Northumbria Police's handling of the racial incidents, but on Monday the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) ruled that the force had acted appropriately.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Mobile phone footage of Nichols calling himself a murderer



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